Well true believers, it has finally occurred.
I have officially been on this adventure one year now – kind of hard to believe. It's been one year since I stepped on a plane to LA and then another plane to Samoa to live in a foreign land for 2 years. I have to sit back and just marvel at that fact for a second – during the process of applying for the Peace Corps this seemed like a distant – almost impossible to imagine – point in my service and now here I am! So before we begin to reminisce, let's talk about what happened over the weekend.
On the luckiest day of the year (Friday, October 13) my group (75) got together at Bryan and John's house for a nice little barbeque. Believe me, it's quite an achievement that all 14 of the people who came in our group are still here – everyone was congratulating us and all that jazz. Unfortunately, Holly was unable to attend (stuck in the states) and Mari/Andrew were getting married back in the states – but since they're all coming back it still counts! So minus 3 people, the gang was all there and it was weird thinking about how far we have all come since we first met each other in October 2005. It seemed like I would never get to know these people, we come from such different backgrounds that we would never mesh together. I thought that at least someone would leave before we all officially became volunteers but we're all still standing tall one year later. It was quite fun having all of us together again and just hanging out with each other – while it wasn't the full group, it's the most that we've had in a long time. The next time we're all together again should be at our midservice conference which is in January. But I'm getting ahead of myself…one of the reasons that we decided to have our one year anniversary dinner on Friday the 13 th was because it was the night before the new volunteers fiafia – kind of like having our own fiafia before welcoming our new counterparts.
On Saturday, we had the fiafia for group 77 at Chanel College and this time I was a lot less nervous compared to how I was for Group 76's fiafia. I had a pretty clear idea of how everything needed to be setup, when people would arrive and how to make the sound SOOOOOO much better compared to the sound we had for Group 76's fiafia. Everything went a lot smoother this time around compared to last time – so we're still learning and evolving in every little thing. When the new volunteers finally arrived, it didn't have the same impact as when group 76 arrived (since they were my first new group) but it did give me a true sense of accomplishment that we have officially been here one year and we're now JUNIORS! That's right baby, Juniors and only 9 months away from being seniors – it's amazing. Group 77 seems to have a lot more older (27+) people then previous groups but it is mainly made up of guys (about 12 guys and 4 women) so it should be interesting to see how the group dynamic works in the village. Prior to the fiafia starting, one of the new trainees (Larry) came up to me and told me that prior to arriving he had found my blog and looked through my photo albums and felt like he had spoiled his Christmas gift by looking at them (because there are photos from prior fiafias there). That's when I was like 'Wow, this blog thing is having an amazing affect'. It not only let's me connect with people from the past (Mary, PC Samoa Group 15) but also the future (Dave and Larry, PC Samoa Group 77) and the present (all the current PC Samoa volunteers that refer to my blog for the pics) – one of those things you just never see coming when you start something. But let me tell you – there's nothing like actually experiencing a fiafia (or this entire experience) for yourself but it will be interesting to find out if anyone from Group 78 or 79 is already reading this thing. If you are – stop looking at the photos! j/k.
The fiafia went very well – even had a new siva teine (girls dance) and two of the volunteers from Group 76 sang for us. The highlight of the night for me was seeing Selima do the taupau dance (which is the last dance of the fiafia, traditionally done by a girl) – it will be my only chance to see an African-American female play that part so it was a nice moment. Also, Sara had David (who's the worship leader at Peace Chapel – the church we both go to) come and do the drumming for the various parts of the fiafia and it just reminded me again of how we've all connected with the community here in our short amount of time. He had fun and it was a lot of fun having him there helping us out.
So now we get to the part where I reminisce: One year, one year – seems odd to be able to say that because in January this looked like a very distant moment but we're here. That's right, WE'RE here – I couldn't have made it this far without a lot of help from my friends and family back home who wrote to me and kept me going through the first couple of tough months. So you might be asking 'How have you changed in this one year span, Marques?' I think I have become a lot surer of myself through this experience – you know before you always wonder how you may react in certain situations, but I've been put in a lot of tough situations here and handled them pretty well. I've definitely learned to see the bigger picture when little things start to cloud your vision. I have grown in my faith by leaps and bounds compared to where I was when I first arrived here – I have definitely been brought to this place for such a time as this. I've also learned how to motivate myself over a long period of time and make sure that I'm productive over a long period of time – in school you can drive yourself hard, but it's really for a limited amount of time. And all the previous jobs I've had, there's always been a deadline that wasn't to far off so I could drive myself and then get a much needed rest. So this was my first taste of having a prolonged job experience and I think I've learned how to have a healthy balance of work and play – nice little test run before experiencing the real thing. Finally, it has finally been proven that being a good, dependable guy actually does pay off in the long run – for this new group's training I have been offered many opportunities to be a part of it and I'm jumping at the chances. Not only because someone did it for me but mainly because I think it's a great honor to be able to pass on my limited one year worth of knowledge to these newbies – once again, I'm in a spot I never thought I would be in back in October of last year.
It has been a rough ride for everyone involved – but thanks for coming this far with me. To paraphrase a famous Ghostbuster 2 saying "One in the hole, ready to go. Year two is fast, year one is slow!" Now, to go through my midservice crisis – what should it be, any suggestions? How about getting a tattoo????
LOL – J/K!
Marques "Matusi" Stewart